Monday, November 05, 2018

A Guest Post-John Kahal--How to Start Your Day

The 10 Healthiest Ways to Start Off Your Day 

By John Kahal, Founder and CEO of Solutions 4 Recovery

At the outset of the recovery journey, feelings of joy and happiness do not come easily. Those emotions were hijacked as a result of a drug or alcohol addiction, and may take a little while to reappear in the daily spectrum of emotions.

Living each day, or hour, without the crutch once depended on to dull emotional pain means opening oneself up to raw, unanesthetized feelings. Early recovery is often marked by a sense of anxiety, trepidation, loss, and uncertainty.

Knowing that this difficult stage will pass is critical to moving through it successfully. In time, brain chemistry will normalize, allowing for a renewal of spirit to replace those initial feelings of uncertainty. As each day passes, sobriety is reinforced and daily life becomes increasingly populated with positivity.

Each small accomplishment builds on the last one, until, over time, a renewed sense of self-worth is established. A positive sense of self-worth leads to increased confidence. Like a snowball gathering momentum and girth, these small victories can grow into authentic happiness.

One of the best strategies for jump-starting this process of renewing the spirit is to create a daily routine that starts off with healthy actions that lead to feelings of accomplishment, gratitude, and self-love. Starting your day doing things to benefit your health and wellbeing will set a positive tone that will resonate throughout the day.

New habits take practice, usually a minimum of 21 consecutive days in a row before they become second nature. But sticking with them will reap amazing rewards across all aspects of one’s life, with improved mood, a more positive outlook, sense of accomplishment, growing confidence, and a healthier body only enhancing your new life in recovery.

10 Healthy Starts to Your Days

  1. Wake up refreshed. Nothing can sabotage an entire day like insufficient sleep. To ensure that your mornings will start on the right foot, stick to a regular bedtime that allows for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep. To enhance sleep quality, do not eat after 7pm, avoid caffeine after 2pm, turn off electronics an hour before bed, take a warm bath in Epsom salts, and read before turning off the lights. If noise is an issue, buy a white noise machine to blend away any sleep-disturbing sounds.

  1. Stretch. Before you get out of bed, take a minute to stretch like a cat. Really stretch the body, elongating the spine while stretching and reaching one arm at a time as far as possible. Once standing, do a couple of stretches, inhaling deeply as you raise the arms up to the ceiling, and exhaling as you lower them. Stretching helps get blood flowing to the muscles, loosens joints, and increases flexibility.

  1. Express gratitude. Sit on the edge of the bed and consider the day ahead. Bring to mind the things you feel grateful for—a safe place to live, food on the table, a job, friends and family, your children, a loving pet. Think of just one way you can give back today, some kind words or one thoughtful act that you can do to express gratitude for the blessings in your life.

  1. Make your bed. This may seem like a silly, meaningless new habit, but the simple act of making your bed speaks volume about your desire to rebuild your life. Use the act of making the bed as a metaphor for straightening up and tidying your life in recovery. Smooth the wrinkles, straighten the bedspread, and let the nice, neat bed tell the story of your newly ordered life around sobriety and wellness.

  1. Shower mindfully. The morning shower is usually a mindless step each day that you probably daydream through as you go through the motions of cleansing your hair and body. Begin a new, mindful approach to the shower. Really experience the soothing sensation of the water running through your hair and over your skin. Nourish the hair and skin with conditioner or scrubs to enhance the mindful showering experience.

  1. Nutritious breakfast. Skipping breakfast is never advisable, as the body will be tricked into thinking that it is being starved and will deplete muscle in an effort to function without calorie input. Even if all you can manage is a protein drink or bar that would be better than nothing. Better yet, fix a bowl of oatmeal topped with berries, scramble a couple of eggs, or just have a serving of Greek yogurt. Your whole day will benefit from a healthy breakfast.

  1. Exercise. If time allows, incorporate a short, brisk walk into your morning routine before rushing off to work. Getting outdoors, when weather permits, exposes you to vitamin D, which can help improve mood. Walking at a good clip for 20 minutes is an excellent cardio activity that improves cardiovascular health, builds muscle, and produces endorphins, which also work to improve mood.

  1. Make a to-do list. Start the day with a roadmap by jotting down the main tasks you need to accomplish. This habit helps reduce stress, as just writing the items down relieves the anxiety that you might forget to do something important. It also helps you pace your day and prioritize, aiding in time management. Crossing off each item helps cultivate a sense of accomplishment.

  1. Relax. If your have a busy, stressful day ahead, take a couple of minutes to do some deep breathing exercises. This calming practice helps provide relaxation to tense muscles, but also slows the heart rate, reduces anxiety, and increases energy to tackle that busy schedule. Breathe in slowly for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts, and release by exhaling through the mouth to 7 counts. Repeat 5 times.

  1. Positive self-affirmation. As you drive to your job or begin your day parenting, give yourself a little boost by acknowledging something positive about you. This can be as simple as giving self-kudos for each day of sobriety under your belt. You can tell yourself how strong you are for making it through detox and rehab and into recovery. You can remind yourself of your wonderful qualities or skills. Anything positive that you convey to yourself will help propel each new day in recovery.

About the Author--Many thanks to John Kahal, founder of Solutions 4 Recovery, and a regular reader of Out of the Woods:

John T. Kahal is the founder and C.E.O. of Solutions 4 Recovery, a comprehensive addiction and dual diagnosis treatment program located in South Orange County, California.  After his own successful experience with the recovery process and journey, Kahal decided to create a unique program that was individualized for each client’s specific needs.  Kahal’s passion to share his own positive experience with others, while being a living example of the freedom found in recovery, is what motivates him to guide clients toward their own stable, long-term recovery.

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